Finding time to complete your schoolwork on top of studying for the SAT and ACT is difficult. Having a goal in mind over the course of your test-prep journey will help you stay focused and motivated. Since this score is meant to be a source of motivation it should be realistic and attainable. It should not be chosen arbitrarily. Here are some questions to consider when making this decision.
How did you do on practice tests?
Practice tests, the PLAN or the PSAT are great resources to use when trying to choose a target score. According to a 2007 study by the CollegeBoard, on average students who take the PSAT end up improving their performance on the actual SAT. To this end, your practice test results can help ensure that you are keeping your target score realistic and achievable. As you study you should be taking practice tests at regular intervals. These practice test scores will help you track your progress against your target score.
What colleges are you planning to apply to?
When deciding on a target score it is important to keep your college list in mind. All the schools you are considering will share information about the SAT and ACT score ranges for their accepted students. The official admissions website for a given school is a good place to start researching this information. Use it to help you narrow your target score range.
Some colleges and universities will not consider applications below a certain minimum score threshold. For other schools students are guaranteed acceptance if they have the required test scores and GPA.
Are you being realistic?
We all want perfect scores, however the most important piece of advice is to remain realistic when setting score goals. And don’t let your score goal bring you down. Remind yourself that there is more to your college application than just your SAT/ACT score. You should also consider the kind of test taker that you are when making this decision. That said, I encourage you to attempt to get the highest score you can.
How are the other parts of your college application?
We have all heard the stories of students who have gotten perfect SAT or ACT scores but were still denied entry into certain schools. Your college application will consist of recommendations, personal statements, lists of your extra-curricular activities, your course load, leadership positions etc.
Our experts can help you set your SAT/ACT score goal, contact them to set up your personal consultation.
While you may already know what to do with your SAT scores once you have received them, here are some things you can learn from these scores. Your SAT score can help you understand your comprehension of high school level material, your competitiveness as a college applicant, and your eligibility for certain college scholarships.
1. Competitiveness for your chosen colleges
One of the main key reasons to take the SAT is to gain admission to the college or university of your choice. The SAT helps college admissions officers assess your reading, writing, and math skills. It also helps colleges estimate your potential academic performance if admitted. Your SAT score is just one of the criteria used to determine college admission. Once you have your score you can compare it to the score ranges at the schools you plan to apply to. Your position within a given school’s SAT test score range can indicate your strength as a potential applicant.
2. Eligibility for certain scholarships
High SAT scores often translate to a heightened potential of receiving scholarships. A number of colleges and universities have scholarships set aside for students who hit a certain GPA and SAT score minimum. Once you know your SAT score, you can use it to inform your scholarship research, and determine your eligibility for scholarships that require you to submit an SAT score.
3. Understanding of subject area strengths and weaknesses
You will receive an SAT score report along with your score. This score report will provide a summary of your performance on the SAT critical reading, math, and writing sections. For each one of these sections you will receive a breakdown of the number of correct, incorrect, and omitted answers. The score details section of your score report will allow you to understand how you performed on each type of question. Statistics about your probability of improving your score if you take the test again are also included in the score report. This information can help you plan and study for the next time you take the test.
4. Ability to skip introductory college courses
Getting into a college is only the beginning of your journey. Once you get to college, it is important to continue challenging yourself intellectually. At many colleges and universities, your SAT score can help decide whether or not you have to take certain entry-level math, reading, and writing classes. Placement criteria varies by school. Double-check the policy for the school where you are planning to matriculate.
5. Eligibility for competitive jobs in the years after college
Your SAT score will continue to be relevant even in your post-grad life. In the professional fields of tech, consulting, and finance recruiters often ask recent college graduates to submit their SAT scores. These scores are often one of the criteria used to help potential employers sort through all the resumes they receive every year.
Your ACT score is just as valuable as your SAT score. Look for a future blog post from us about what your ACT score can teach you. If you’re having trouble deciding between the two tests, be sure to check out our SAT vs ACT webinar to learn which test might be right for you.
Over the past few years the ACT has been growing in popularity. In 2012 for the first time ever, more students took the ACT than the SAT. For students planning to take the ACT there are a few changes that they should be aware of. These changes represent an effort by the organization to remain relevant to both college and career bound high school seniors. These changes are slated to take effect in 2015.
Clearer Score Reporting
Each of the ACT’s four sections receives a score between 1-36, these scores are then averaged to arrive at a composite score. This will not change. In 2015 test takers will receive the following additional readiness scores and indicators:
STEM Score: The ACT is the only national college admissions test that measures science aptitude. This score will represent student performance on the science and math sections of the test.
Progress Toward Career Readiness Indicator: For students who may be going straight into a career post-college, this indicator measures career readiness. It will provide a sense of how students will perform on the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate. The NCRC is used to certify that an individual has the foundational work skills needed for work success across industries and occupations.
English Language Arts Score: Students who complete the ACT essay receive an English language arts score. This score is an assessment of student performance on the English, reading, and writing sections of the ACT.
Text Complexity Progress Indicator: This indicator allows students to assess their ability to understand the complex texts that will be presented to them in college.
Optional Constructed-Response Questions
Schools will have the option of having their students answer an additional set of open-response questions. Answers to these questions will be used to link student performance to Common Core state standards.
In April 2014, four thousand students took the ACT online. In 2015 the digital version of the ACT will be offered at all schools that participate in state and district testing.
Enhanced ACT Writing Test
In 2015 the ACTs writing subsection will change its focus and scoring. Students will receive a score for each of the following characteristics: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use. In order to get a high score students will have to demonstrate an, “ability to evaluate multiple perspectives on a complex issue and generate an analysis based on reasoning, knowledge, and experience”.
Sources: ACT Inc, ACT Next Website
In past blog posts I have shared reasons for studying for the SAT this summer, and tips for studying effectively over summer break. In this post I want to help you decide whether you should be studying this summer. Planning effectively is the key to having a successful test-prep experience. Below are some questions you should consider when trying to decide whether summer test-prep is right for you:
Are you a rising sophomore or junior?
At TestRocker we recommend that students spend the summers after their sophomore and junior years studying for the SAT/ACT. We make this recommendation so that students have a chance to prep while the majority of their distractions are at a minimum.
For juniors and seniors who are in the midst of their college process the earlier they secure their target score, the better. Many colleges and universities do not accept scores after January of senior year.
What is your target score?
I write often about the importance of having a goal in mind when you study. Not only does this provide a source of motivation, it also can help you develop a test-prep plan. Once you know how far away from your target score, you will know how much preparation you need to do to get to your desired score. If you are very far from your target score, it might make sense to dedicate some of your summer to studying.
How many times have you already taken the SAT or ACT?
We recommend taking the SAT a maximum of three times and the ACT twice. Going into summer if you’re planning to take the SAT or ACT for the last time in the fall or winter, it makes sense to give yourself the added confidence of preparing over the summer.
When are you planning to take the SAT or ACT?
The October SAT and September/October ACT test dates are popular amongst juniors and seniors. Studying over the summer will allow you to feel well prepared for your fall test dates. This will allow you to use September/October for a light review of the material until your test day.
How much free time will you have during the summer vs. the school year?
No matter what you have planned during the summer, odds are you will have more free time than you normally have during the school year. It will be easier to balance your test-prep with your other obligations. Leverage this time wisely. Spend it working towards and achieving your target score.
What are your academic and extra-curricular obligations in the coming school year?
While you decide whether the bulk of your test-prep should take place during the school year or summer, think about your obligations for the coming school year. Consider the following questions:
- Will you have less time to prepare because of certain commitments?
- Are you planning to take any AP classes?
- Will you be playing for any varsity teams that might require you to dedicate time after school?
- Planning to take on more student leadership roles?
If you are planning to do any of these things and take the SAT or ACT, studying during the summer will allow you to manage your time more efficiently during the school year.
Both SAT and ACT test days are on the horizon. It is normal to be a little nervous or anxious about the test, especially given the role of test scores in college admissions. That said, keep in mind that test scores are only one of the many aspects of college application. The realization will hopefully help you relax a bit. When you are relaxed you can think clearly, plan effectively, and score higher. Here are the things you can do now and on test day to stay calm.
Practice Early and Often
Most of the anxiety that you feel on test day may come from feeling unprepared, or rather a fear of being under prepared. Want to know the easiest way to combat these feelings? Practice. Thankfully, there are a variety of paid and free practice SAT and ACT resources available to you. Our program includes a practice quiz for each one of our 32+ modules as well as full-length practice tests and 2 hand-graded essays. Consistent practice will certainly help you build the confidence you need on test day.
Get enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical to your test day performance, ability to retain information and your ability to recall what you have studied. “Enough sleep” may vary person to person, but for most people eight hours each night is just the right amount.
Don’t arrive late and give yourself another reason to be flustered on test day. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrive, complete the registration process, get comfortable in your seat prior to the test. Arriving early is just one of the ways to ensure your own comfort. Bring snacks to eat during scheduled breaks. I also advise my students to dress in layers in case the room is hotter or colder than they expected.
As you prepare and think about test day, imagine yourself feeling confident as you take the test and doing well when you get your test scores back. As you walk into the test it is important to think positive. Also, keep negative thoughts at bay. Negative thoughts can be a distraction and heighten your stress levels.
How do you stay calm under pressure? Share your tips by leaving a comment below!
Even with the assistance of a calculator the SAT math section can be difficult. I hope this article can serve as a checklist of the things to keep in mind during the SAT math section.
Use your Resources
On test day you’ll have a number of additional resources at your disposal including: your calculator, scratch paper, and the formula sheet, don’t forget to use them.
Use your calculator to avoid careless mistakes and move quickly through questions. You should write down key information on your scratch paper. Taking notes will allow you to avoid re-reading. The formula sheet is another resource that allows you to save time! You won’t have to waste precious minutes trying to remember a formula that has escaped you. As you study spend some time familiarizing yourself with this formula sheet.
Know what to expect
The SAT math section tests the following topics: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. As you start to prepare for the test it is important to review all of these concepts in detail. Numbers, algebra and geometry form about 60% of the content on the test. A solid understanding of triangles will also be necessary to do well on the test’s geometry questions. Triangles form the backbone of most of the geometry questions. Don’t assume that you will remember everything because it was covered in your high school math class.
After all the hard work you put into preparing for the SAT (and its math section), when test day arrives you should have a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses. This information will help you pace yourself and let you know which questions to skip. As you work through the test, do all the easy and familiar questions first.
Read prompts carefully
The language on the SAT is often circuitous and tricky. Throughout the test it is important to read both its directions and question prompts carefully. Take note of any critical information you come across in your reading. Make sure you understand the definitions of the words being used and apply them exactly. Finally once you have solved a problem, go back and double check that you are answering the question that you were asked to solve.
On the SAT Math section, as you would with any other section, you should pace yourself and remain aware of time. Start with the easy and familiar questions. In most cases, the first 10 questions will be fairly easy. Do the work to solve these questions using your scratch paper and mark your chosen answer in the test booklet. Then transfer your answers for the first 10 questions from the test booklet to the answer sheet. Follow the same process for questions 11-15. For all remaining questions you can solve the questions and fill in your answers one by one.
When in doubt, skip!
The current SAT has a guessing penalty. For this reason it is best not to make random guesses. You should only guess when you are able eliminate a few of the available answer choices.
Have more questions about acing the SAT math section? Sign up for a personal TestRocker consultation today.
Image source: Psychcentral
It is that time of year again. The school year is winding down and summer is on the horizon. Final exams and papers are being written, year-end school trips are being taken, and summer plans are being solidified. In my blog post about developing a SAT/ACT test-prep plan, I recommended that high school sophomores and juniors use their summer to prep for the SAT or ACT. Between academics and extra-curriculars the school year can get extremely hectic. The summer presents an opportunity to get ahead in your test-prep. Below are my tips for studying effectively during the summer.
Establish a goal
Work with your college counselor and parents to think about your test-prep goals. The purpose of this goal is to keep you motivated as you study. Your goal can be to get a specific score, dedicate a certain amount of time to studying every week, or simply complete all of your test preparation by a certain date. You can use your existing college list to inform your goal. Be realistic and pay attention to the score ranges for admitted students at your target schools.
Decide on a test-prep method
Once you have a goal in mind, decide which test-prep method will allow you to achieve that goal. There are a variety of options available, each with their own pros and cons. You can study online, take a group prep class, or study with a private tutor. Choose the method that you feel is right for you and achieving your goal.
Set a study schedule
A crucial part of studying effectively involves more than just the content you will be studying. Setting a study schedule ensures that you maintain a healthy balance between studying, your social life, and sleep. Study in 30-60 minute chunks, to ensure that you have time to absorb the material you are reviewing.
Think about when you learn best and try to study at the same time everyday. If you’re a morning person, it might make sense to wake up early and study. If you are more alert at night or after a workout, factor those things into the study schedule you design for yourself. Making your studying a habit will help you stick to the schedule.
Decide where to study
For those who choose to study on their own, a factor that is as important as how you study is where you study. When thinking about the best study spot, try to find an area that is well lit, comfortable, quiet, and presents minimal distractions. Some places that might serve as a study area are a home office, your local library, or a quiet bookstore or coffee shop.
Have an accountability partner
Once you have established your goals, decided on a test-prep method, and set your study schedule choose one person who will be your accountability partner. An accountability partner can be a parent, teacher, sibling or a responsible friend. This person will help you celebrate your successes and get back on track when you start to deviate from your original test-prep plan.
Finally it is your summer break. Remember to set aside time to relax and spend quality time with your family and friends. Giving yourself study breaks and fun activities to look forward to can help you remain focused in your studying.
Want to study this summer with TestRocker? Email us at email@example.com to find out about our special summer offer.
Image source: Huffington Post
The college application process is long, arduous and stressful for children as well as parents. Standardized testing (SAT/ACT) is required by most colleges & universities in the United States, and can often be the most strenuous part of the application. As parents, in addition to being a source of support for your child, it is important to provide guidance and structure throughout the process. And when it comes to the SAT/ACT, a clear test-taking plan agreed upon between you and your child can take a lot of the anxiety and stress out of the process. Listed below are some tips that can hopefully guide this plan.
Your child should focus on mastering the key concepts and fundamentals that will be tested on both the SAT and ACT. Mastery of the topics covered in the high school classroom will make SAT/ACT preparation easier in later years. If there are any topics in school that your child is struggling with, make sure you get the help needed to address those weaknesses while the learnings are still fresh.
Sit down with your child to create a test-taking plan. This test-taking plan should address the following:
- Will your child be taking the SAT, ACT, or both? (In 2012 for the first time, more students took the ACT than the SAT. Now that all 4-year colleges and universities accept both tests, more students are submitting both SAT and ACT scores with their college application.) If you aren’t sure which test might be best for your child, watch this free webinar.
- Which test dates work best for your child?
- How will test-prep fit into your child’s academic, extra-curricular, and familial commitments?
- What will the test-prep method be?
- When will test-prep begin?
(We recommend beginning test prep over the summer after 10th grade)
Your child might take the PSAT for the first time in grade 10. If the test is offered at your child’s school, we highly encourage that they take the test. It serves as a good reminder that the college application process is right around the corner. Don’t worry, the 10th grade PSAT results are just benchmarks, they don’t count towards the National Merit Scholarship etc.
In order to have more time for the college application process, the majority of standardized testing should be completed during 11th grade. Your child will take the PSAT in October of their Junior year. For students in the United States, these results will determine their eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship. PSAT scores will be released to the school counselors in December. Click here to understand your child’s PSAT scores.
- October – PSAT
- December – PSAT scores released
- January/March – 1st SAT attempt
- February/April – 1st ACT Attempt
- May/June – 2nd SAT attempt
Rising seniors who have not gotten their target SAT score should use the summer to study. Seniors can then plan to take the SAT for the last time in October. The ACT should be attempted for the second time in September.
Seniors should complete their standardized testing earlier on, so that they can focus on having a strong finish to their high school academic career. This will also allow them to dedicate the necessary resources to submit their very best attempt a compelling college application.
There are a number of lists that tell what you should do in the time leading up to SAT or ACT test day. We’ve even written a couple. Now here are some mistakes/bad habits to avoid as you start to prepare for test day.
I. Forget to register for the test
It’s hard to take a test that you have not registered for. Registering for the SAT or ACT is relatively painless and can be done by mail or online. Sign up for the SAT or ACT as soon as you have settled on a date.
Not having a test-prep plan is often the biggest impediment to registering for the test on time. If you’re having trouble developing an SAT or ACT prep plan, we recommend the following:
- Attempt the test twice over the course of your junior year, once in Jan/March and then again in May/June. Plan around the busy times on your academic calendar.
- If needed, attempt the SAT a third time in October of your senior year
- Students should attempt the ACT for the first in February of your junior year
- Attempt the ACT for the second time in October of senior year
For key registration dates, deadlines, and registration information:
Click here to register for the SAT
Click here to register for the ACT
II. Study at the last minute (aka the night before)
Research has shown that spacing out your study sessions helps with long-term retention of material. Odds are that any material you look for the first time the night before the test, won’t be retained during the test. It is difficult and anxiety-inducing to learn and try to retain 30+ hours worth of material the night before your SAT or ACT.
In order to avoid the last minute crunch it might make sense to study during any breaks from school (check out our tips for summer study here). If a school break is not on the horizon, develop a detailed study plan instead.
III. Neglect to take practice tests
Research also suggests testing yourself on the material constantly as you study. It is the only way to ensure that you have actually learned the content. Practice tests are your opportunity to simulate SAT/ACT test day in a low stakes environment. Additionally, the SAT and ACT are timed tests, so you have to get used to answering questions in a timed setting. The more you practice, the faster you will get.
IV. Fail to assess your practice test performance
Taking a practice test is not enough to get you your dream score. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of taking a practice test, calculating your score and then going back to studying. Instead use the following questions to guide your assessment of your practice test performance:
- What sections seemed easier or harder to you during the practice test?
- Do your scores on particular section reflect your perceived perception of its difficulty?
- Are there any concepts that you need to refresh on? (e.g., triangles, sentence correction, long passages)
- If your practice test was timed, were you able to answer all of the questions in the allotted time frame?
- Are there sections where you were unable to get through all of the questions?
- What were your strengths and weaknesses based on this practice test, and how can you target your studying to address these?
These questions are just a starting point and should hopefully help to ensure that every study session counts, and that you are studying as effectively as possible. The TestRocker diagnostic test can assess this for you in 70 minutes.
V. Not Sleep
Often we equate working hard with not sleeping. The night before the SAT or ACT is not one of the times that you should operate in this way. In the nights leading up to the test you should make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. Adequate sleep is critical to boosting memory and learning ability.
Have more questions about how to be prepared for test day? Ask our experts!
Image source: Flickr
Whether you've been studying for months, or just realized that your June ACT is only a few weeks away, use our 3 week study calendar to help you study smarter.
Here are the three steps to ensure you get your dream ACT score on June 14th:
- If you haven't already done so, sign up for our free trial. If you enjoy learning with TestRocker then purchase our program!
- Use the calendar below and work through the recommended modules, video concepts, and practice quizzes.
- Wake up calm and relaxed on June 14th, and rock the ACT!
Since TestRocker is completely online, you can prep for the ACT whenever you want, wherever you want. In fact after your test, continue to use TestRocker to prepare for your next ACT. Good luck!
Click here to download the calendar!
Ready to rock the test?